Some achieve madness.
Others have madness thrust upon them."
-- Emilie Autumn, "Girls! Girls! Girls!"
Artist(s): Emilie Autumn
Album: Fight Like a Girl
My Thoughts: I was first acquainted with the music of Emilie Autumn sometime back in 2010 with her Opheliac album that sort of took the goth-pop world by storm.
The best way I've been able to describe her singing is: "she's what you'd get if Tori Amos and Annie Lennox had a mad-science love-child who would occasionally forget everything she'd ever been taught about singing and musical theory from her mothers."
And once I got to see her perform live, I realized I needed to add in the codicil of: "Oh, and she studied performance and art at the University of GaGa."
While you might think that these sound like criticisms, they're really not. I honestly consider them to be some amazing endorsements (especially considering that I put so much time and thought into trying to conceptualize that whole origin story in my head... I don't spend this much time thinking about things I don't really enjoy).
So with the release of Fight Like a Girl, I was pleased to see that Ms. Autumn kept enough of what attracted me and so many others in the first place to maintain a sense of musical continuity. But I was also pleased to see that she delved into even deeper and darker territory than she did in Opheliac. She's embraced the "Victorian mad-woman" persona, and, while the extremity of the topic might appear dated, much of it is actually quite a timely criticism concerning the still-rampant stigmatization of women and the mentally ill despite our supposedly "modern sensibilities".
Though that might be me reading entirely too much into the motives of someone who just likes to make beautifully dark and disturbing music.
Highlights: Fight Like a Girl strikes me as almost a concept album, in the vein of Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime and Styx's Kilroy Was Here. There's a distinct sense of there being an underlying story to the progression of the music throughout the album - though the actual story itself isn't entirely clear. Of course, that sort of makes sense when we're talking about madness and insane asylums, so maybe it really is a concept album in the true sense and I just haven't listened enough to really pick it out yet.
My favorite selections from the album consist of:
"Take the Pill" - a slightly industrial piece channeling the most "Annie Lennox" elements of Ms. Autumn's musical persona. Some pretty intense targeting of the modern "pill culture", highlighting the growing "take this mind-altering pill to treat the side-effects of this other psychotropic pill" and the lack of questioning of the so-called "experts" who just keep prescribing more medications.
"Girls! Girls! Girls!" - No, this isn't a cover of the classic Motley Crue song of the same name (though, I'll admit to hoping for that a little). More of a carnival-esque ditty mocking of the old "circus freakshows" with the "freaks" being women committed to an asylum for things ranging from actual mental illness to such troublesome issues as free thinking and sexual desire (the deviants!).
Final Thoughts: A fine album taking a darkly sarcastic poke at a lot of truly disturbing topics. As I mentioned before, there seems to be a highlighting of some still extremely archaic views in modern culture concerning women and mental illness.
That being said, Ms. Autumn doesn't let the subject matter interfere with the wit and elegance (and sometimes shock) of her presentation. So if you really enjoyed Opheliac but wanted a little more coherence, Fight Like a Girl delivers a much more solid and still darker presentation than the previous album. Which, being me, is exactly what I was glad to hear.
P.S. Emilie Autumn is performing in both Oakland and Sacramento in October (the 17th and 18th, respectively). It looks like the regular pre-sale tickets are sold out, but it seems some of the VIP packages are still available for those with unnatural urges (and enough spare cash). Check out the One-Time Events page for a link to get the most updated details.
-- Mr. M.